Read (and watch!) more about us in the local press!
ST. PETERSBURG — Raw coffee beans are to Raphael Perrier what grapes are to a winemaker.
The coffee bean roasting process is a lot like wine making, according to the co-founder of local chain Kahwa Coffee. The aging process is much shorter — mere days, not years — but just as thoughtfully orchestrated to create the right flavors, he said.
With a massive coffee roaster rattling behind him, Perrier pried the lid off a large plastic bin, revealing thousands of dark beans. They were “resting,” he said.
“A lot of people think the best a coffee will taste is with beans that are just out of the roaster,” said Perrier.
“But you want to give it between 24 and 72 hours," he said, scooping up a handful of espresso beans that gleamed from hints of oil.
Raphael Perrier and his wife, Sarah Perrier, founded Kahwa when Starbucks was firming itself up as the world’s dominate coffee chain. By 2005, the Seattle chain had more than 10,000 locations.
That same year, the Perriers began their own scrappy operation. Fifteen years later, the couple is still riding on caffeine, tweaking their blends and growing as a leading roaster in Florida.
They even have four new stores in the works, cementing Kahwa as the area’s largest independent chain of coffee shops.
In the center of Kahwa’s warehouse at 3070 44th Ave N last week, dozens of plastic tubs full of coffee beans sat ready to be distributed around town and beyond. Some of the beans would be ground up and packaged in serving sizes for the 850 hotels — as far away as Utah and the Turks and Caicos Islands — that offer Kahwa to their guests. Most would remain as whole beans, either to be packaged in bags sold on shelves or ground fresh at one of 15 local coffee shops.
Raphael and Sarah opened the first Kahwa Coffee shop in St. Petersburg in 2008. The two started earlier as coffee wholesalers, but Raphael had a history as a barista. They chose the name Kahwa because it’s similar to coffee’s Arabic name, qawah, and because coffee was first discovered in the Kaffa area of Ethiopia more than 1,000 years ago.
They’ve kept up with shoppers’ tastes by stepping into the canned coffee market with nitro and cold brew. The market exploded and is expected to continue growing.
But Kahwa’s bread and butter is its signature roasts.
“We focus more on blends, not single-origin coffee,” Raphael said during a tour of the warehouse and headquarters.
It’s a science to get the combination of sweetness, acidity and bitterness just right. Kahwa’s blends combine beans from around the world to create their custom flavors.
The Perriers have grown their business alongside American’s ever-growing thirst for coffee. In 2017, about $2.6 billion in liquid coffee was sold — $1 billion more than was solid in 2013, according to market data compiled by Statista. In that same period, dry coffee bean sales also grew by about $1 billion, to roughly $9.4 billion in 2017.
“I remember early, driving around doing deliveries thinking, ‘if I could be in Publix, sell on HSN and be at the Rays’ stadium,'" Raphael Perrier said, trailing off. “Now I can say done, done and done.”
Publix cafes use Kahwa coffee and the new GreenWise Market locations have Kahwa cold brew on tap. Florida Whole Foods stores sell Kahwa Coffee in the bulk section. Kahwa is also the official coffee of the Valspar Championship, the golf tournament that takes place this March at Innisbrook Resort.
Although Starbucks and Dunkin’ still dominate the market, the demand for coffee has left room for some independents to thrive. But the local scene continues to get more competitive. Other local chains such as Buddy Brew and Blind Tiger have been steadily growing their own footprints, although neither has crossed the bay into Pinellas County yet. And there are the neighborhood spots like Black Crow and King State that have loyal fans.
In early 2018, Kahwa experimented with opening a Miami location by taking over a coffee shop from another operator. It soon pulled the plug on South Florida.
“We didn’t have the brand recognition we needed,” Sarah Perrier said. She called it a valuable learning experience.
Now their expansion plans are focused on Tampa Bay and Sarasota. The couple said rather than jump across the state, they’ll expand from their core locations outward.
Up next are new shops in St. Petersburg, Bradenton, Casey Key and Dunedin. The Perriers declined to disclose the exact locations as they work through finalizing leases and building permits.
But like any modern retailer, Kahwa’s focus isn’t just on brick-and-mortar sales. They recently grew their online ordering options with a subscription service that ships coffee to customers’ homes every 30, 45 or 60 days.
From the beans to the bags, Kahwa does everything in-house from its headquarters. The bean roasting never really stops. At most, they have a week’s worth of stock on hand.
“We do that to make sure it’s always fresh,” Sarah said.
Times senior researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.
Pay It Forward this National Coffee Day at all Kahwa Coffee Cafés
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. (September 25, 2019) – In celebration of National Coffee Day, Kahwa Coffee Roasting Company, the largest independent coffee roaster in the state of Florida, is giving their customers a chance to give back to the community where they live. On Sunday, September 29, 2019, 100% of proceeds from every coffee and tea drink sold at each Kahwa café location will be donated to one of three partner charities: Blessings in a Backpack at all Pinellas County locations; Where Love Grows at all Hillsborough County locations; and All Faiths Food Bank at all Sarasota County locations.
“We are very excited to be working with three outstanding charities that each work tirelessly to help end the hunger crisis in our community,” said Sarah Perrier, co-owner of Kahwa Coffee. “In lieu of the standard National Coffee Day discounts, we wanted to pay it forward and bring awareness not only to the issue of hunger in each county, but to showcase these charities and the amazing work they do day-in and day-out. To maximize support, each charity has been assigned to one of three counties where our Kahwa cafés are located.”
Pinellas County Charity – Blessings in a Backpack
Blessings in a Backpack is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing children with a backpack of food to take home for 38 weekends during the school year. The charity was formed in 2013 by retired school teacher, Margaret Holler and her husband Carl. The Pinellas-based program currently serves more than 150 children. The goal of the program is to help the participating families realize remarkable improvement in their daily lives. The results can be manyfold, in addition to no longer feeling hunger pangs, children find it easier to learn in school, are more confident, secure and are less likely to get into trouble. All proceeds from coffee and tea drink sales at the Kahwa cafés in Pinellas County will go to food and supplies for the weekend backpacks.
Hillsborough County Charity – Where Love Grows
Where Love Grows was founded in 2013 by Vicky Anzalone who was inspired to give back after suffering health challenges. This non-profit organization was established with one goal in mind-to assist the 28% of children in Hillsborough County living with food insecurity. Where Love Grows prepares and serves an average of 300 meals per month at local Boys and Girls Clubs and other organizations that support the needs of children in our community. Family dinner nights and mobile cooking classes hosted by the Hillsborough program have proven to be an enriching experience for both the families attending and the volunteers serving the meals, connections are made and bonds are created that last well beyond the dinner event. All proceeds from coffee and tea drink sales at the Kahwa Cafés in Hillsborough County will go to food and supplies for meals.
Sarasota County Charity – All Faiths Food Bank
All Faiths Food Bank Sarasota County was formed in 1989 by a group of individuals who, through their respective organizations, were previously addressing hunger in the local community. With 37% of households in Sarasota struggling to afford even their basic needs and All Faiths Food Bank as the only food bank serving the county residents, the non-profit organization is an essential resource to the food insecure community. The Sarasota organization proved to be prolific in their 2018 outreach and distributed 10.5 million pounds of food and served up 8.75 million meals to children, families, seniors and veterans. All proceeds from coffee drink sales at the Kahwa cafés in Sarasota County will go to food and supplies for meals.
For over 14 years, the Kahwa Coffee Roasting Company has been an active member of the greater Tampa Bay community. Charity and giving back are an integral part of the company DNA, which is why, this year, on National Coffee Day, Kahwa encourages residents to join in the fight against local hunger by purchasing coffee from any Kahwa location on Sunday, September 29, 2019.
About Kahwa Coffee:
Kahwa Coffee Roasting Company is a wholesale and retail coffee company based in St. Petersburg, Fl. Founded in 2006 by Sarah and Raphael Perrier, Kahwa has become the largest independent coffee roaster in the state of Florida. Kahwa’s reputation is built on quality and consistency of the product. 100% premium quality Arabica beans are selected from different origins around the world, these beans are then blended and skillfully roasted to produce a complex flavor that allows each origin to yield its most distinct palate. Each blend is roasted and packaged on demand to guarantee quality and freshness. Kahwa’s wholesale customers skyrocketed in 2008 after receiving the stamp of approval from world-renowned French chef, Paul Bocuse, who selected Kahwa coffee for his highly esteemed restaurant in Epcot, Chefs de France. That same year, Kahwa’s first retail café opened in downtown St.Pete with the goal to create an environment with personalized customer service and a community meeting place where all walks of life can come to socialize. Today, with 15 retail locations and over 800 wholesale customers, Kahwa is dedicated to expanding its customer base while still maintaining the greatest quality of the product and an exceptional customer service experience. For more information, visit www.kahwacoffee.com. Stay connected to Kahwa:facebook.com/kahwacoffee and @KahwaCoffee on Twitter and Instagram.
by: Whitney Elfstrom
Coffee and art go side by side these days at a downtown coffee shop.
When Kahwa Coffee opened on Second Street in 2016, the store began the custom of displaying the works of local artists. Pieces ranging in sizes, mediums and aesthetics have transformed the coffee shop’s white walls into a canvas for the community.
“Coffee culture is becoming a huge thing in Sarasota, and the fact that we can combine that with local artists is really awesome,” Kahwa Store Manager Lindsay Olson said.
Patrons of the coffee shop are so hip to the idea that Olson said regulars come in the last two days of each month anxiously awaiting the next artist to be displayed.
Booked through the end of 2020, the coffee shop has become a hot ticket for local artists looking to showcase their work. Some artists have even waited more than a year to be displayed.
Charlotte Corker, a sophomore studying game art at Ringling College, signed up 14 months ago, right before she began her freshman year of college.
Now she’s Kahwa’s September artist of the month.
Although she has had work displayed in a few high school shows, Kahwa is the 18-year-old’s first-ever solo show.
“[This] has been very validating for me as an artist,” Corker said. “I want to share my art with the world, and this has given me a platform to do so.”
Her art consists of black, white and gold mixed media paintings that depict animal bones and human figures. The coloring matches that of Kahwa’s interior design, but Corker said that wasn’t intentional. It just worked out that way.
To differentiate her personal art from her professional school art, Corker uses her middle name, Lennox, to sign her artwork. Corker also prefers to use an androgynous name for her personal art because she said it can be more difficult for women to be recognized in the art world.
Raised on Long Island, N.Y., Corker grew up surrounded by art. Beginning at age 2 with finger painting, she said art was an activity she could tackle on her own without help from others.
“Art was something I could do by myself, and I could see progress, which I liked,” Corker said. “It was a way of expressing myself that other endeavors couldn’t capture.”
Corker’s pieces are for sale and range in price from $60 to $175. All proceeds from the show go directly to the artist, Olson said.
Artists interested in joining the wait list for the chance to display their art at Kahwa should go in and talk with one of the baristas, Olson said. Other than a prohibition on nudity, the criteria for artwork is open for artists to explore.
“[Artists should] let it be whatever you think is going to look awesome in the space,” Olson said. “We’re really open.”
The past year has been a whirlwind for Kahwa Coffee Roasting Co.
In January, Kahwa moved into a 20,000-square-foot production facility in St. Petersburg, more than three times the size of the company’s previous space. It’s grown both its consumer and business-to-business operations. The 13-year-old Kahwa has 15 retail locations and 750 wholesale accounts, as well as a growing grocery store presence.
Now, the biggest challenge is finding workers to staff its retail stores, work in production and fill corporate jobs, said Raphael Perrier, who co-owns Kahwa with his wife, Sarah Perrier.
“We’re growing so fast we need people to work for us,” Perrier said at 1 Million Cups St. Petersburg, where the company provides free coffee every week. “It’s a great economy right now, I guess everyone is saying, but it’s also a terrible economy to hire people.”
One key area of growth has been in grocery stores. Local coffee companies increasingly are moving into supermarkets, as the public becomes more educated on specialty coffee, Forbes reported.
Kahwa coffee is served in 15 Publix Super Markets in-store cafes, and the company has a presence in 25 Publix stores, Perrier said, through the in-store cafes or on the shelves, where bags of Kahwa coffee are sold. It’s also in nine Whole Foods Markets in the Tampa-St. Pete area, and will be going to all of the 23 Whole Foods statewide. The company recently introduced its products in all 27 Lucky’s Markets in Florida, and is talking to The Fresh Market, Perrier said.
“It’s a business that we keep on pushing,” Perrier said. “It’s not new in the coffee business, but it is for us. We wanted to make sure before we did that, that our name was big enough to be able to sell coffee. It’s one thing to be on the shelves and sit there. It’s another thing to get on the shelves and actually sell the coffee.”
Kahwa launched a $6.5 million capital raise a year ago. It’s almost completed, Perrier said on Wednesday.
“We’re not in a rush. It’s not something we need. A lot of companies, when they do a capital raise, they need it. We don’t need it, we just want to do it to get to the next level. It’s almost done,” Perrier said.
As the company grows, it’s putting increased focus on philanthropy, Sarah Perrier said. Instead of giving away free coffee on National Coffee Day on Sept. 29, Kahwa donated $10,000, the proceeds from that day’s sales, to three local nonprofit organizations, she said.
The nonprofits were Where Love Grows, Blessings in a Backpack Pinellas County and All Faiths Food Bank, according to Kahwa’s Facebook page.
St. Petersburg's Kahwa Coffee is the latest local roaster to launch ready-to-drink cold brew in cans. Late last week, Kahwa announced the two new additions to its lineup of caffeinated products — traditional cold brew and nitro brew — on social media.
"FINALLY, coffee that tastes amazing in a can!" reads a Dec. 21 Instagram post from Kahwa. "Our team has been busy perfecting the tastiest can of Cold Brew and Nitro Brew coffee, and we have done it! Stay tuned to see where you can pick these up later today!"
A couple of locations that've started carrying the cans are both Rollin' Oats stores in St. Pete and South Tampa. Each cold brew is priced at $3.99.
Husband-and-wife team Raphael and Sarah Perrier founded Kahwa in 2006. With more than 800 hospitality partners, grocery chains and other destinations carrying its signature blends, the roaster operates 15 cafes across the state.
Kahwa Coffee Roasting Another popular Tampa Bay chain, Kahwa has a handful of locations in the area. The name is a spin on the Arabic word for coffee (“qawha”). It specializes in one-of-a-kind blends of single-origin beans from countries around the world, and the menu offers the usual line-up, including cappuccinos, lattes, macchiatos, Americanos and more. There’s also a flavored drink of the month, and each one can be made with cow or almond milk. The space has an industrial-chic vibe—concrete floors with minimal decrations—and shaded outdoor seating. The nitro cold brew is the region’s best. 8317 Market St., Bradenton, (941) 351-1551; inside University Town Center, 140 University Town Center Drive, (941) 248-3300; 1487 Second St., Sarasota, (941) 203-8971; and coming soon to the Shops at Casey Key; kahwacoffee.com. $
Nick Brown | July 20, 2018
Twelve-year-old Florida-based coffee roasting company and retailer Kahwa Coffee has landed a deal with the regional supermarket chain Publix, with a target of 130 in-store cafe openings by the end of this year throughout the Southeast, according to an announcement from Kahwa.
The Publix cafes featuring Kahwa coffees will be strategically placed near the entrance of each participating Publix, offering retail display space and a drinks menu that includes a new blend created specifically for the venture called Cubano.
It’s a major deal Raphael and Sarah Perrier, who founded the roasting company in St. Petersburg 2005 before opening the first cafe in 2006. The company has expanded its production capabilities and now operates 12 cafes — all but one Miami location are in the Miami/St. Pete market — while also supplying some 800 restaurant and other wholesale accounts, according to the company.
“We are absolutely over the moon that Publix is working with a local Florida roaster,” Raphael Perrier said in the company announcement. “Consumers like to enjoy coffee as they shop and tasting the product is the best opportunity to create a lifelong customer and drive sales for Publix.”
Publix operates more than 1,100 grocery stores in seven Southeastern states. At least 18 of those stores currently have a Starbucks-branded cafe on premises, and the company says on its website that four more Publix stores with Starbucks bars are “coming soon.”
The first Kahwa cafes in Publix locations are planned for Winter Park and Bradenton, both in Florida.
By Laura Finaldi
Want to sip some local coffee while you shop at Publix? In Bradenton, now you can.
The grocery chain and Tampa-based Kahwa Coffee have partnered to bring Kahwa’s product to two existing Publix bakery cafes in Florida, including one at 11205 E. State Road 70 in Bradenton. The concept could expand to other existing stores and some new ones, Publix spokesman Brian West said, but it’s still in its pilot stages. Kahwa is scheduled to come to a third Publix bakery cafe in Virginia soon.
“They have a great product, and our customers like it,” West said. “From that vantage point, it seems to make good business sense.”
Raphael Perrier, co-founder of Kahwa Coffee, said he plans to be in 130 Publix stores across the Southeast within the next six months. The company is also opening a new 1,200-square-foot cafe with a drive-thru in the Northwest Promenade at 6705 Manatee Ave. West in Bradenton.
Perrier said he hopes the Publix partnership will generate lots of exposure for Kahwa, which opened its roastery and first store in 2006. The chain currently has 12 locations in Florida.
“It’s a golden opportunity to expand the brand outside the Florida market,” Perrier said.
The in-store cafes are staffed with Publix employees, but Kahwa is training them, Perrier said. Customers can pick from items on Kahwa’s full menu, including lattes, cappuccinos and espressos, and purchase coffee, cold brew and k-cups to bring home.
Kahwa is also planning stores in the International Mall in Tampa and in the Mall at University Town Center. The new Bradenton store on Manatee Avenue West will open in February or March of next year.
“We believe that there’s a good demand for that area. We believe it’s going to be a good demographic for us — for people coming from Anna Maria,” Perrier said.